Why You Should Never Ignore Toenail Fungus

With all the dangerous health issues out there, such as diabetes and cancer, having a yellowed toenail due to a fungus may seem quite trivial. Since toenail fungus (commonly known as athlete’s foot) is generally not that painful, most folks believe that the worst part of their problem is how their nails will look, and therefore, put off seeking treatment. 

While many people are healthy and only see the problem as an aesthetic one, ignoring a fungus-infected toenail could result in health consequences far beyond appearances. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you want to treat it. But know that if it isn’t treated, it won’t go away on its own.

But What Even Causes Those Unwanted Fungi?

A toenail fungus at the peak of the infection.

Technically called “Onychomycosis”; toenail fungus is a common problem that can be quite challenging to shake off. Those awful unwanted and itchy yellow spots on the toenails (and sometimes even on the fingernails) can, unfortunately, happen to anyone, especially the elderly. About 10% of us ( approximately 20% of people over 60 and 50% of people over 70) suffer from nail fungus. 

If you notice that your toenails have thickened, become brittle and turned yellow, chances are you have a toenail fungus! But why do these unwelcome guests pay some of us a visit at some point in our lives?

Fungi is all around us. They’re most often found in warm, dark and humid places such as locker rooms and communal showers, gyms and local swimming pools. Our feet come into contact with all kinds of yucky stuff during a day’s work and are the ideal breeding ground for fungus as they sweat profusely. Moisture and heat can allow a small fungus to grow and turn into a real rash.

You can also catch a toenail fungus in a nail salon. Therefore, knowing the hygiene and sterilization practices of your local nail salon is vital to ensure that you are not at risk of developing a fungal infection. Older people are more prone to nail fungal infections because nails dry out with age, causing them to crack. These cracks allow easy penetration of a fungal infection. 

While for some, cracked and scaly skin and yellow, brittle nails caused by a fungus are nothing more than just a public cosmetic inconvenience, for others it’s a severe condition that shouldn’t be ignored at any cost! Let’s take a look at what can happen if you don’t treat your nail fungus! 

Spread All Over Your Body

Sometimes an untreated toenail fungus can spread to the surrounding skin of the foot. The result can be athlete’s foot, a condition characterized by red, cracked and itchy skin. If you wear socks and shoes all day long and one of your toenails is infected, it can spread pretty quickly as fungi thrive in warm, dark and humid environments! 

The worst part is that the fungus can even spread to the genitals (Ouch), where it turns into a jock itch, a condition that can affect both men and women.

Horrible Foot Pain

What’s worse than a horrible, unbearable foot pain? Over time, a nail infected with a fungus can thicken and deform, causing severe aches and pains! It can even make walking difficult when wearing shoes.

Loss of Nails – Oh No!

Nail art lovers, this one’s definitely gonna break your heart! Toenail Fungus can steal your entire nail for good! But how? Toenails infected with fungus can separate from the nail bed. If this happens, the loose part of the nail will have to be removed. Even if an infected toenail does not come off, it may have to be scraped off if the fungus does not go away with traditional treatments. In this case, a procedure called “Avulsion” is used to remove the entire nail. 

Sometimes the nail is permanently extracted by a procedure called “Matrixectomy”. This destroys the growth centre at the base of the nail, either surgically or chemically. This means that your nails will never grow back ever again! (Goodbye beautiful nails…).

Can Be Deadly

This particular risk of toenail fungal infection is especially worrisome for individuals with diabetes and other chronic diseases affecting their immune system. If a toenail fungus spreads over the skin and causes it to crack, bacteria can get in. This can lead to cellulite, a condition that produces swollen, red and sensitive skin and must be treated with antibiotics. In severe cases of cellulitis, the infection can even enter your bloodstream and be fatal (all that because of a simple fungal infection!).

Visit a Podiatrist to Pinpoint the Problem

These infections won’t go away on their own… So, for safety reasons, it is necessary to confirm the specific causes. Good news is that healthy people may be able to deal with their toenail fungus on their own with over-the-counter medications. If you don’t have a weakened immune system, diabetes or circulation problems, you may choose to try home remedies first before seeing a doctor. 

But if you do suffer from circulation problems or diabetes, you should visit a podiatrist for treatment as soon as you notice symptoms of a fungal infection. Failure to get proper treatment could seriously increase the risk of bacterial infections and other potentially life-threatening complications. 

If you think you have a fungal infection of the foot or toenail, you can schedule an appointment with Manningham Foot Clinic to diagnose your symptoms. Based in Bulleen, they use the latest cutting edge techniques to detect and treat all types of foot and ankle conditions.

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